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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ode to a Great Man: Recipe and Food Musings

This week was the one year anniversary of my step-father's death. He died of a massive heart attack on Superbowl Sunday 2010 and it was a terrible blow to my family.  He was so loved by us all and we miss him very much.  He was a very funny man who loved to tell a great joke or make a quick jab to lighten a mood and when you were the target you knew it was said with love.  He would have loved this story and I am hopeful that he's looking down on us and getting a great chuckle.

The Saturday before this year's Superbowl, I went food shopping for the week.  I had a seen on TV a commercial for some kind of "Mexi-Melt," as I've started calling it, but it's far less fancy than its name implies.  It's a microwaved concoction of Velveeta and salsa. I know - it sounds both revolting and delicious at the same time. I allowed the "yum" factor to take hold - even while my husband cringed at the same commercial. My husband, mind you, has been known to splurge on such "gourmet" items as White Castle, McDonalds, or Taco Bell (the one place I wouldn't go to if I were starving and living on the street).  I digress...

So purchasing Velveeta is a complete and utter anomaly for me - I know you'll roll your eyes, but truthfully I've only bought Velveeta a handful of times in my life and the last time had to be about 15 years ago!

As I came to the last aisle where the cold items are - cheese, eggs, yogurt, etc., I had trouble finding the big block of Velveeta - all I could find were packaged slices. I took the package of sliced cheese, imagining it melted the same way as the block, and drove my cart to the store manager - who sees me and must realize that his weekly numbers are satisfied when they ring up my weekly food bill - and asked him if they had actually sold out of the block of Velveeta for the "big game."  He leaned in close to me and sort of whispered: "See that frozen aisle?" I nodded. "Go to the end of it and keep the display of 'non-refrigerated' cheeses."  I must have looked petrified but I did as I was told - I walked back as far as I could go without walking into the "back" and I found the cheese block. I grabbed one - praying no one could see me - and returned the slices to their rightful place.

All I kept thinking was: if my step father could see me now, he'd be howling laughing! The food snob had actually purchased cheese from a 'non-refrigerated' cheese wall.  And then I started to disgusting is that???

I made my Mexi-Melt with my homemade salsa and the kids LOVED it, ironically. But we didn't use it all up, of course.  Which leads me to this - when staring into the cavernous fridge three days later, I saw three items that popped out to me and instantly I knew what to make for dinner:  Chicken with Cheese and Broccoli!

A long time ago, in fact it may have been the last time I had Velveeta, I came home to my parents all excited with a new dish: Chicken with Cheese and Broccoli - a perfect one-pot meal.  I made it for my parents and my step-father loved it but my mother was less than pleased (another food snob - x10).  She decided another time to make the same dish - but she chose to use some other "fancy" cheese and it was horrible! My step-father told that story over and over and over and ultimately the story changed so that both she and I would not use the Velveeta (which melts beautifully) but instead we both insisted on using the fancy (read: snobby) cheese. Not true. But "never let the truth get in the way of a good story!"

Moral of the story? Eat your Velveeta. Believe it or not, the box actually says: it melts better than cheddar (true) and it's less fat and there is nothing artificial in it!  My kids loved this - thought it was "awesome," making it an instant success. We (reluctantly!) like Velveeta!  Miss ya, Grandpa!

Chicken with Cheese and Broccoli
1 lb. chicken cutlets, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
6 oz. Velveeta, cut into 2" chunks
12 oz. SteamFresh (Bird's Eye) broccoli, cooked and trimmed
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp., each: salt, dried oregano, Adobe seasoning, ground savory and dried basil

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy, pot.  Add in the chicken pieces and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to turn white on the outsides and light pink in the middle. Add in the spices and stir. Next add in the broccoli flowers and mix well. Add in the cheese and stir well until creamy and melted.

Serve with rice or plain pasta.

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